Common Disaster-Related Rumors

There often are many rumors and scams after a disaster. Do your part to the stop the spread of rumors by doing three easy things: 

  1. Find trusted sources of information. 
  2. Share information from trusted sources. 
  3. Discourage others from sharing information from unverified sources. 
Beware of Fraud and Scams


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Rumor: You must be a U.S. citizen to apply for federal assistance.


This is not true. FEMA may provide financial assistance to eligible U.S. citizens, non-citizen nationals and qualified aliens.

When available, life sustaining resources such as shelter, food and water, crisis counseling, disaster case management, disaster supplemental nutrition assistance program and disaster legal services are available to disaster survivors regardless of citizenship and immigration status.

To learn more, visit our Citizenship and Immigration Status Requirements for Federal Public Benefits page.

Rumor: Receiving a letter from FEMA stating that I am not approved means I will not receive any assistance.


It depends. When you receive a letter that states your application is “not approved” or “incomplete” you can check your status online or call the FEMA Helpline, 800-621-3362, for more information.

This letter may mean that more information is needed, or that your insurance claim needs to be settled before FEMA disaster assistance can be granted.

Rumor: If my application is not approved, there is nothing I can do about it.


This is not true. Every applicant has the right to appeal. An appeal is your chance to tell FEMA why you don’t agree with the decision the agency made. You may send new or additional information and ask FEMA to change its decision. You must mail or submit your signed appeal letter within 60 days of receiving your decision letter.

Rumor: I don’t own a business so I can’t apply for a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loan.


You don't need to own a business to request a disaster loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

SBA provides low-interest disaster loans to qualified homeowners, renters, and businesses of all sizes.

You can use SBA disaster loans for the following:

  • Home repair or replacement
  • Mitigation
  • Personal property
  • Business losses
  • Vehicle repair or replacement
  • Working capital for small business and most private nonprofits

SBA disaster assistance loans must be paid back.

In addition, FEMA works with the SBA to determine if you should get money for personal property or transportation assistance from FEMA or the SBA. FEMA is not allowed to provide money for these losses to people who may qualify for an SBA loan.

FEMA will automatically refer you to the SBA to be considered for a disaster loan if you meet SBA’s income standards. FEMA will use your household annual gross income and number of dependents to determine if it will refer you to the SBA.

You don’t have to accept an SBA loan offer; however, if you are approved and you do not accept it, you will not be referred back to FEMA for personal property or transportation assistance. You can call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 if you have additional questions or need more information.  

Rumor: Survivors can’t apply if they have insurance.


This is not true. If you have insurance, you can apply for FEMA assistance but you must file an insurance claim as well. FEMA cannot help with expenses your insurance might cover until you send us your insurance settlement or denial, but FEMA may able to assist with other losses insurance won’t cover. If insurance does not cover the entire cost of disaster-related expenses and your settlement was less than the maximum amount of money FEMA can provide for that loss, you may be eligible for FEMA assistance.

Visit the FAQ page for more information.

Rumor: If you receive a grant from FEMA you will get less money from Social Security.


This is not true. FEMA assistance is not taxable and will not affect your eligibility for Social Security, Medicaid or other federal benefits.

Rumor: I am automatically registered for FEMA assistance if I reported damage to my local parish, county officials, or a disaster relief organization.


This is not true. To be considered for federal disaster assistance, you must apply directly with FEMA.

Rumor: My homeowner’s insurance includes flood insurance.


This is not true. Homeowner insurance policies do not normally cover flood damage. Flood insurance is typically a separate policy.

Visit the National Flood Insurance Program page to purchase flood insurance or find out more.

Rumor: A little water wouldn’t cause much damage.


This is not true. Just five inches of water can cause over $25,000 worth of damage.

Visit the National Flood Insurance Program page for more information.

Rumor: Flood insurance is only available for homeowners.


This is not true. Flood insurance is available to homeowners, renters, condos and businesses. 

Visit the National Flood Insurance Program page for more information.

Last updated October 3, 2022